Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Cycling Gear I Like, Part 2

Okay, so only the first thing on this list is strictly winter gear, but it's all stuff I'm using on the winter bike, so it's fair game anyway.

Hand Warmers
I thought for a long time that bar mitts or Pogies or whatever you want to call them were for sissies and that a good pair of mittens with liner gloves would always be sufficient. Wrong. I was at Farm and Fleet the other day for something else and happened across a pair of QuadGear ATV mitts for under $20, so I decided to give them a shot. Yeah, pretty good stuff. I can wear a pair of cotton jersey gloves inside these down to about zero Fahrenheit and my fingers are pretty toasty. They have little velcro-closure pockets inside for chemical hand warmers. Easy velcro attachment. Granted, they are not custom Epic Designs Pogies, and don't fit my Titec H-bars like a glove exactly, and I sacrifice some hand positions because of it, but they're a good way to try out bar mitts. There's also enough room inside to carry an extra pair of gloves, a toque and maybe a little food. Experience to date suggests I won't need the warmer pockets for warmers, but I bet they'd fit some nibbles.

Another thing I like in the winter are dynamo hubs and LED headlights. I'm currently running a DH-3N71 disk hub on the Pony, which has Ultegra-quality bearings and kicks out 6 volts at 3 watts. It's hooked up to a German-made Schmidt Edelux 2-watt LED headlight. The LED actually shines backward into a parabolic reflector that faces forward, creating a nice, even, parallelogram-shaped patch of light right where you need it most. The beam also has a sharp cutoff at its top, helping to not blind other road and path users. Think BMW headlight rather than the usual vertically-symmetrical flashlight beam you get with most bicycle lights. Here's a picture of the beam (top) in action versus the 1W Planet Bike Blaze LED dynamo headlight (bottom):

Schmidt Edelux beam pattern
Planet Bike Dyno LED beam pattern
Don't get me wrong, I love the PB light, especially for its killer Superflash blinkie mode, but the Edulux is better for seeing more of what's on the ground ahead of the bike.

One thing I really like about dynamos in general is that you don't have to noodle with batteries, which tend to be sapped by cold temperatures. Something about not converting chemical energy into light energy quite as easily. I know that battery technology has gotten much better in recent years, but I just don't like dealing with them in general, whether rechargeable or disposable.

I'm also using an all-dyno powered setup on the Moose now, with a Shimano NX-30 hub powering a Lumotec IQ Fly headlight (truly great for the price), PB Blaze and Busch & Müller DToplight XS Plus taillight. Not supposed to be able to do all of that, but it works. Potential future Blog Gold.

Dressed up Pony
The best I have saved for last. My new Epic Designs frame bag and gas tank. Another hat tip to Doug for finally pushing me over the edge on ordering these in plenty of time to take delivery for the DDD. These might seem sort of expensive, but when you consider that they're custom-made from high-end materials by a guy who really knows his stuff and feel how light the package is when it arrives in the mail, they start to seem like a pretty darn good deal. I've been carrying a couple of dry shirts, a pump, a few tools, a tube, first aid kit and thermos of hot beverage in the frame bag and eats in the gas tank.

The last likey, neither strictly winter or cycling, is the camera that's been shooting most of the photos that appear here and in my Flickrama over the last month or so. It's the waterproof, dustproof and shock-resistant Panasonic Lumix TS1. After thrashing 4 cameras over the last 4 or 5 years and dooming 2 of hem, I settled on something that might have a chance of surviving going everywhere with me for just a little longer. We'll see how that works out. It's doing well so far in spite of being subjected to this sort of thing:

Also, one little footnote regarding the previous post. I like Freddie's Revenz Lites for the kind of riding that happens around here. On the 48mm ZHI rims at about 15-18psi, they have a pretty squared-off profile, darn good gription and more than a little bit of squishiness to soak up rough trail surfaces. All this in something that weighs less and feels better than the 2.5-inch WTB Timberwolf and Continental Digga tires that I had tried on before—tires that don't carry the 336 steel stud insurance policy. Been looking at the Larry though...


MrDaveyGie said...

Michael, Heritage trail is now perfect for the Freddies. Rode most of it today. Hard packed snow, with some patches of ice, but the Freddy studs had no problem. This is also the first year for me to have Bar Mitts, like you said I do lose some hand positions but colds fingers are not going to happen.
Safe and happy rides.

Doug said...

Once you get used to the frame bag, you'll wonder how you got along without one. It's a great way to carry stuff on a winter bike.

Those Farm and Fleet ATV mitts look EXACTLY like my Cabelas ATV Mitts. I mean exactly. They must get them from the same supplier or factory. I'd love me a $200 pair of Eric Parsons Pogies, but the price on the ATV Mitts can't be beat. I rode with mine in -28 degrees in my first Arrowhead attempt with only liner gloves on. My hands never got cold.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Dave, thanks for the update—I'm really looking forward to the race and hope I get a chance to meet you.

Doug, agreed. Love the bags and the mitts and I'm sure the mitts must come from the same place with different labels slapped on as they go out the door. And yes, they're warm enough that I think the chem pockets are just a marketing feature...

Antoine said...

Well I don't need moose-mitts down here but a frame-bag/gas-tank combo would be great for the Pug - someday maybe.

When my budget permits a generator hub set-up on my commuting bike is more likely. I do okay with rechargeable batteries as I only commute three nights in the dark, but having lights ready to go at any time sounds very appealing.

I'm enjoying your new found posting frenzy by the way ;^)

coastkid said...

frame bag and gastank bag has been one of my best purchases...
always have enough clothing and food now when out long rides...

Mauricio Babilonia said...

Glad you're enjoying Antoine.

Yeah, frame bag and gas tank are really turning out to be the way to go. Muuuch better than the seatpost rack and rack trunk I was using last year...